Who’s On First?

Abbot & Costello (if you must ask, then ‘never mind’) had this brilliant baseball comedy skit where it was difficult – if not impossible – for Abbot to actually determine which player was at which position.

This should not be a natural lead-in for succession planning today; alas, it’s the perfect entré.

We simply must determine, in advance, “Who’s on first.” We have to know – at a minimum – who is capable of assuming our significant (“Key”) leadership roles. Real people, with names and plans behind them.

The Philadelphia-based Hay Group surveyed their “150 Most Admired Companies,” and discovered that almost 80% of these firms’ Boards have a preference for internal CEO candidates. 80 percent!These companies (and their Boards) recognize two things:

1. Selecting replacements for key positions is one of the most critical tasks of board or senior leadership, and
2. That when done correctly, companies can better create succession replacements from within, instead of hiring from the outside.

And, unlike a previous blog post that describes settling for “the pick of the litter,” these companies purposefully develop their internal talent to be prepared when “called up.” They don’t simply settle for “best available.”

Want a specific take-away action? Ok, how’s this for a 2-parter:

Part 1:
Identify, via a logical, involved process, those positions (not people) that are or will be essential (“Key”) to the future success of the organization.

Part 2:
Meet, discuss and name — by NAME — the likely successors to those roles at least twice per year.

Even better, determine the skill gaps that still exist and create a plan to make sure your “chosen ones” are headed down the path for preparedness.

Then execute, execute, execute.